Two Small and Impactful Gestures of Two (Former) City Councillors

This time around I am going to publicly name two politicians for what they have done! What a timely post shortly after one year since the most recent municipal elections here in Edmonton.

Cue scary noises!

Actually, I’m just joking, really!

I think it helps that they are both former former city councilors, but either way, I am actually actually not naming them and shaming them. I’m naming them because yes, I think they probably won’t even remember doing these two things at all. These seem to be very small gestures but had really impacted the way I look at things here in the city where I live, and had shifted my life in a very noticeable way. It is a positive impact – no shaming will be happening here.

First is former City Councillor Scott McKeen, who represented Ward 6, downtown Edmonton. He was pretty active in his social media accounts, and I followed his Twitter account to stay up to date with city politics. One day, he re-tweeted about a Repair-a-thon event a few days before it was about to happen. I like sewing, fixing things up and making them usable again. This event is an opportunity for people to get everyday items and clothing repaired, and people can volunteer their skills to help get these stuff fixed up. Because of a scheduling conflict and the fact I just found out about it a few days before the weekend, I cannot make it and I was pretty upset. I could have helped patch up clothes, sew back buttons and fix hems on shirts and bottoms. At the time, I already figured that Home Economics is not a a typical part of the curriculum for children here, so many don’t have the skills to do simple repairs with clothing, household objects or electronics.

From seeing this event being promoted, I also discovered a Twitter account called Boomerang Bags Edmonton. It is very much related to sewing and upcycling. The goals is to get volunteers to sew fabric shopping bags that can be re-used as opposed to single-use plastic bags, and donate them to local stores so they can encourage customers to use them instead of buying bags. It’s a win-win and I loved the concept. So I got involved, signed up to volunteer and made a lot of bags. If I tally them up it probably will go up to the hundreds at this point.

It’s interesting because the preferred terminology that is gender-neutral is “sewist”. But it’s difficult to use since as someone who is ESL, whenever I hear the term I think of someone who is doing something related to plumbing, like sewage. Because of this I still use seamstress especially when talking to people who might not be as familiar with the community.

Anyways, because of being a volunteer seamstress with Boomerang Bags, working with fabric become a larger part of my hobby time. I’ve already been quilting for years and I’ve made enough quilts, throw blankets, pilllowcases for my home. And during the pandemic, our community’s talents had an opportunity to shine in a major way. Hundreds of crafters, seamstresses (or sewists), quilters worked together for months to help with two major fabric-related goals: to make fabric masks for those who cannot afford them, and to make fabric laundry bags for healthcare workers to store their contaminated scrubs after work that they can just toss into the laundry.

A dining chair with a dozen fabric bags draped by the backrest.
These were the first batch of bags I’ve sewn in March 2020, as part of the province-wide effort to make fabric bags for healthcare workers who need a place to store their dirty uniforms. Just a year beforehand, I discovered Boomerang Bags Edmonton through social media posts of a city councilor.

I wonder if the former councillor realized that from this very small act, it opened me to Edmonton and Alberta’s community of creatives sewing.

Second is former City Councillor John Dziadyk, who represented Ward 3 on the north side. He caught my attention during his election campaign in 2017 because his marketing strategy was frequent, consistent, and his viewpoints were phrased in a way that resonated with a lot of people frustrated with how things are done in city government. After he got elected, his social media, particularly Facebook, continue to be very active in sharing information about community matters.

He published a short video during spring time 2018, encouraging people to help with the snow melting and puddles in drains by chipping off the ice of a blocked drain when they see one. It’s clear that the video was a simple one, likely just him and another person holding his phone. He used an ice chipper, a common tool used in the winter, tried to strike a puddle a few times and then the muddy water started to drain. He said, doing this helps prevent flooding and from stagnant ice water to collect. This can be dangerous if the puddle freezes again which tends to happen in March and April.

It blew my mind that it is something that an everyday person can do. I definitely have seen these slushy puddles on sidewalks and intersections all the time. As someone who frequently walks, I’ve been splashed by them a few times. I thought there’s nothing anyone can do other than hope for warmer weather so all the water evaporates.

As a result, I started to observe sidewalk drains whenever I walk around. While I don’t always have the time or I forget sometimes, whenever I could, I would also remove pieces of garbage or leaves that would block the drain. That way, when it rains or there’s a large amount of snow and ice melting, all the water have somewhere to go. It’s one of those seemingly invisible things that if someone looks at proactively, it can save people from inconvenience, potential accidents, and soggy footwear.

A sidewalk in the spring time, with snow and slush piled up.

What’s most interesting about these two experiences is that these actions are not even closely related to their actual roles, which is advocating and addressing political issues under the municipal government. A few times, I’ve heard people say that being a politician for a city or municipality, is the toughest one compared to being a provincial or federal politician. Either way, I’m thankful that something as simple as browsing social media platforms and finding these information from their posts had made a positive impact on me. A re-tweet, and a simple video, who would have thought! Well, I hope these two former politicians are doing well these days after moving on from political life.

The Fight for Healthy Social Media Habits: A Filipina-Canadian Perspective on Covid19

Woman sitting on couch browsing her smartphone

Doomscrolling sounds like a terrible terminology, and maybe it is. If the past fifteen years or so were any indication, the usage of technological devices from computers, the Internet, email, web subscriptions, and recently social media has occupied a significant portion of our time emotional energy and attention.

And it is understandable that there is such a great desire to stay as informed and as connected as possible given the realities of the current situation we’re facing which is a pandemic. And also, it is not like many other challenges and issues we have in our day-to-day lives have been put on hold because of the pandemic. The pandemic is just in addition to everything else, like natural disasters, scheduled government activities like budget deliberations, and the seasons. Products and services continue to be launched and promoted, various forms of entertaining content still get published in dizzying speeds, in addition to what I would describe as people increasingly having social and political discourse online.

I’ve heard so many times that social media apps are specifically designed to continuously capture one’s attention, to make it really hard to pull away deliberately and take a break from consuming all the content. Either it can suck people in into reacting and arguing or contradicting the thing they read. It also prompts people, even without realizing it, to make comparisons between with their own lives and however other people’s lives are portrayed in their carefully crafted posts and announcements.

A lot of times, what we read in social media also pushes us to do things really impulsively without realizing how what we publish can be interpreted by others. The term ‘keyboard warriors’ is there for a reason, after all. Oftentimes, the volume of commentary on a particular topic and a particular position on a topic is enough to make you drown mentally.

Three people wearing uniforms and aprons sitting beside each other browsing on their own smartphones

As someone who wants to be always informed and deeply involved in the community, this is a tricky fine line I have been trying to navigate. I am learning a little bit more about the concept of boundaries and I realized it is time to extend that with how I use technology.

So here is how I have been doing it in the past, which I realize it’s a decent foundation. On my desktop computer, I have an app called LeechBlock that sets timers so I only use certain websites for a specific period of time. This helps me prevent going through all content and scrolling mindlessly for minutes even hours without realizing it. When the timer for that web page says “oh you have been using this for 10 minutes straight!” it feels weird because you lose your grasp of time when you are just mindlessly doing something.

And now, I took it to the next level by doing the same thing for my own cell phone using an app called SocialFever. I’ve been doing it for just a few weeks, and I always get surprised when the timer says take a break from your phone because you have been looking at it for half an hour. I was like what? I have been on my phone for half an hour straight already? I just a bit shocking but also not completely. I still get surprised whenever the phone says time to take a break from this app for the day because I have already reached the limit you have set for myself. I have set a half-hour maximum for this particular app which is Twitter or YouTube and the internet browser app/

It is interesting seeing is the end of the day report I get from this app. For the past few days it seems like I have been using my phone for a an average of two to three and a half hours per day for doing different activities. Another eye-opening, if not a little bit humiliating, statistic that this app tracks now is how many times I unlock my phone. It’s weird to see that I unlock my phone in a several dozen times a day with the stats to prove it.

Screenshot of app alerting "app time has been exceeded".
This is the screen that pops up whenever I’m using an app for too long. It’s a jolting wake up call every time, but one that I appreciate.

I hope that by setting externalized limits, I don’t have to rely as much on my flawed self-control and instead, reserve my energy to when I pivot into doing productive things outside of browsing and interaction on social media apps. The pandemic is going to be here for a while so I know that cutting myself off completely from social media is not something I want to do. This, I hope, is the means to have a happy medium.